Ryan Frazier throws his hat into the Senate race

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Two-term Aurora city councilman Ryan Frazier has announced that he's formed an exploratory committee for the Colorado 2010 U.S. Senate Race. The development, which Frazier will announce today at a Grand Junction tea party rally, makes the 31-year-old Frazier the first Republican to take official steps towards what's likely to become one of the most-watched Senate races in the country -- though for months insiders have been expecting just such a move from the GOP up-and-comer. Frazier already has a campaign website up, www.FrazierForColorado.com, and will be aiming to dethrone Democrat Michael Bennet, who was appointed to the seat by Governor Bill Ritter in January after Ken Salazar left to become Secretary of the Interior.

Frazier might be a relative unknown, but he's working to change that. Last year, he made a splash by co-sponsoring Amendment 47, the controversial right-to-work measure that failed at the polls in November. While Frazier may have made a few enemies in the process (most notably Big Labor) his attention-grabbing anti-union stand curried the favor of the party faithful. He's built on that momentum over the past few months with memorable speeches at rallies and GOP events around the state, such as the Grand Junction tea party today.

The hard work paid off. Last month, a straw poll at the deep-red Douglas County Lincoln Day dinner tagged Frazier as the clear U.S. Senate favorite with just under 60 percent of the votes -- leaving potential competition like radio host Dan Caplis, former Congressman Bob Beauprez and Weld County D.A. Ken Buck in the dust. It also doesn't hurt that, in an upset at the Republican central committee meeting last month, the GOP rank and file elected as state vice chair Leondray Gholston, a Republican activist who ran Frazier's city council re-election campaign in Aurora.

The race ahead for Frazier will be far from a cakewalk, however. While he may be a dyed-in-the-wool fiscal conservative, his markedly liberal stance on social issues is likely to put off his party's conservative Christian base. While he's not necessarily pro-choice, for example, he noted in a Westword profile last year that "I am not a fan of abortion, but I struggle with whether it is the appropriate role of the government to place itself there." He's also been very public in his support of benefits for same-sex couples -- a stance that's sure to come up as a proposed civil-union ballot initiative on the 2010 state ballot pegs Colorado as one of the next gay-marriage battlegrounds.

So while Frazier could be the fresh, vibrant face Colorado's struggling GOP has been looking for, the religious-right faction of his party may be reluctant to anoint him their chosen one. The question for Frazier, then, is just how much political penance will he be willing to do?

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